Being the dinosaur that I am in this industry (19 years and counting); I’ve seen so much change. Some changes are for the better, some changes are for the worse, some of them just plain old annoying.
In the beginning, life for the agent was a little more time-consuming, but, as a whole, agents were far more respected for their knowledge. After high school, I actually attended a travel school. We learned a GDS, learned airport codes, geography, basic travel management and how to properly hand write documents. There was no Sidestep or Kayak to check airfares, no neighbors who’d just purchased their own website for $500 and now claim to be an agent, and no Trip Advisor to find out if the resort was really all that great. The customer relied on their agent, and their expertise in their respective fields. But today, it seems to have all changed. The two things that stand out that are missed the most are support and respect.
- Airlines – I have seen many of them come and go. But what’s missed the most is the help you used to actually get from them as an agent. You could call them to correct minor errors or almost any help, and usually got it. Sales Reps visited all the time, free tickets and waivers were never an issue. Now, sales reps hardly exist, forget asking for help or a favor, and you’d actually be lucky to get someone on the phone that’s not outsourced to a foreign land. Somewhere along the line, the airlines forgot that it was the agent who promoted and sold their products.
- Cruise Lines – I have seen the ships get larger and larger, and our commissions get smaller and smaller. Mainly for the fact that the Non-Commissionable Fees (NCF) have increased without any rhyme or reason and cabin rates (the commissionable part) have been reduced. Their agency call centers are manned by agents who seem to know less then us, and the group desk are just a mess.
There are also plenty of things in the industry that have gone the way of the Dodo, and I am sure no one misses them. See how many you can even remember.
- Handwriting tickets/MCO’s/PTA’s.
- Official Airline Guides (OAG) to find flight schedules & fariff books for fares
- Huge hotel books taking up all the space on the shelves.
- Paper tickets / boarding passes that had to be stapled onto the itineraries
- Revalidation Stickers
- Archaic GDS systems (System One)
- 3 fare classes on flights F, Y and no chance in hell of changing class.
- Non refundable tickets were actually non refundable / non changeable / non transferable.
Don’t misunderstand me, I love technology. Without it my day would be that much longer. I’m thankful each day that I have the Internet to check places like Seat Guru, or Booking Builder to help me add to my client’s experience. I especiall appreciate MapQuest to help me determine how far the client’s appointment is from his hotel. Even better are professional networking sites like TRO where I can virtually talk to other agents when I’ve just come to a dead end and need help. I think that many suppliers feel technology replaces expertise, and in my opinion it never will. Nothing is better than first hand knowledge of a product– a website will not spend time with the client explaining why a certain product is simply better value. Maybe its time they woke up a bit and realized it’s still the professional travel agent doing majority of the work that’s contributing to their bottom lines. What do you remember? What do you miss or not miss the most? Let’s discuss it here.
Lisa Rapavi is a Corporate Travel Agent for The Leaders Group based in Montvale NJ. She is a home based working from her home in PA. She has been an agent for over 18 years, working in all facets of travel, but focus’ her travel skills in the corporate travel arena. Lisa can be contacted at L.Rapavi@tlgtravel.com